Good Thursday morning!
Former Vice President Joe Biden vowed to “fight the pernicious and persistent evil of antisemitism at every level” in a lengthy statement issued on Wednesday.
Today in Palm Beach, Florida, Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman will discuss his new book, What it Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence, and his investment career.
Tonight in Philadelphia, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be inducted into the Only in America Gallery at the National Museum of American Jewish History.
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DRIVING THE DAY — Trump impeached along party-line vote
And then there were three: President Donald Trump on Wednesday became just the third president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. On a vote almost entirely along party lines, two articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Tulsi provides drama: The only surprise of the night was Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) voting present on both articles. The long shot presidential candidate said it was “a vote for much needed reconciliation and hope that together we can heal our country.”
What now? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated at a press conference that the House may not promptly send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial. That step requires a second vote on the House designating managers for the trial. Democrats have been cautious about advancing the articles of impeachment in light of concerns that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may not allow key witnesses to testify in the Senate.
DRIVING THE CONVO — Debate around Trump’s EO continues
Ken Stern, who worked on the original draft of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, explained, during a conference call hosted by J Street on Wednesday, why he’s opposed to President Donald Trump’s executive order to combat antisemitism on campus.
Abusing the definition: “The major purpose [of drafting the definition] — it wasn’t the sole purpose ― was because there were antisemitic attacks in Europe and there needed to be a common frame of reference for data collectors. There was never a discussion about ‘let’s somehow regulate speech on campus through this,’” Stern stressed. He added that one of his responsibilities while working at the American Jewish Committee was drafting a report on bigotry on campus, and — after a long investigation — “we came to the conclusion that you will never fight bigotry on campus by suppressing speech.” Trump’s EO, he suggested, is “an attempt to take this definition and abuse it as a hate code.”
Blame the messenger: On the call, Stern said he was “troubled” that those who attended the signing ceremony last week, “who are worried about words promoting antisemitism,” didn’t challenge Trump for his rhetoric that “has given encouragement to people who wish Jews harm.” Stern went on to criticize members of the Jewish community who “allow somebody’s perception of Israel that they agree with to diminish their concerns about antisemitism.”
What about Satmar Jews? Stern suggested that the EO will have implications beyond college campuses. “I think what we’re going to see is more and more effort to characterize speech about Israel as antisemitic when it may not be,” he said. “Well, you know, that’s a complex thing. I think you can make the argument that anti-Zionism is antisemitism, in effect, because Jews are not going to give up sovereignty in Israel and go away peacefully and you don’t care about how many Jews are going to be killed in the process. But you know, we don’t call Satmar Jews, who are anti-Zionist, antisemites. And a lot of young activists — I know students — are very concerned about Israel because of their Jewish identity and may be speaking out… I’m really scared when the government is in the position of making that determination for us.”
Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs at AJC, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that Title VI referenced in the EO “is not necessarily a new measure by the Trump administration. The reality is that this goes back well into the Obama administration when it was simply a necessary measure, or step to take, to allow the Department of Education to play any role in addressing antisemitism. Like Trump or not, this isn’t his new tool to define Jews.”
Background: Baker, who negotiated the IHRA working definition with the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in 2005, said that the idea was originally developed to address violent attacks against Jews in Europe, which were being ignored and dismissed in the political context of Israel and the Middle East conflict. “So it was important for authorities to understand that what might appear to be a political activity, simply because it references Israel or Zionists, shouldn’t be thought of as that and taken at face value,” he asserted. Baker added: “If you have a responsibility to monitor, to address the problem of antisemitism, whether it’s on college campuses or in the streets of Stockholm, then having a definition like this one is a helpful tool. It seems in my mind that there’s nothing terribly controversial about that.”
One objective, two choices: Baker suggested that the measure would have drawn less backlash had it passed Congress as a bipartisan measure. “The executive order does what the Antisemitism Awareness Act would do,” he explained. “So in a way the executive order preempted it. And of course the obvious reason why I would’ve preferred to see it happen through legislation is because it had broad bipartisan support in Congress, so it wouldn’t have been politicized or become more of a partisan issue in the way that it has.”
Podcast playback: On “The Daily” podcast, host and New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro discussed Trump’s measure with Max Fisher, an international reporter and columnist for the newspaper. The Times’ initial report on the executive order indicated that the order would include language defining Judaism as a “national origin,” setting off a frenzy among major Jewish organizations, activists and lawmakers.
Pushback: Seffi Kogen, global director of young leadership at AJC, tells JI: “‘The Daily,’ and indeed, the Times’ reporting in general has missed the mark in a few key ways. First, the initial Times coverage majorly botched the story, leading many readers to believe that this measure would be defining Jews as somehow less American. Next, the Times suggested — including today in ‘The Daily’ — that this EO would potentially infringe on the First Amendment rights of students who wanted to assail Israel. It will not, as executive orders do not trump the Constitution; any school seeking to punish students for protected speech will rightly find itself on the receiving end of an unwinnable lawsuit.”
Not just Jews: “Finally, the Times has maintained that these protections are being extended to Jewish students and not other religious minorities,” Kogen said. “This, too, is untrue. The Obama-era letter explicitly mentions Muslims and Sikhs as examples of ‘students from any discrete religious group that shares, or is perceived to share, ancestry or ethnic characteristics,’ and says that such students should also be considered protected under Title VI.”
Add to the list: Cyprus on Wednesday became the 17th country to adopt the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism.
HEARD YESTERDAY — Elan Carr: Rising nationalism not a threat to Jews
Elan Carr, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog discussed the rise of antisemitism at the NGO Monitor annual conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
Explaining the rise in global antisemitism during a panel discussion, Carr suggested that “there’s nothing wrong” with rising nationalism. “It is very important that we draw a distinction between nationalism and ethnic supremacism,” he explained. “Sometimes Jews fall into the trap of not drawing that distinction, and then, when you don’t draw a distinction and condemn nationalism, then you empower the antisemites on the left because they say, ‘Well, yeah that’s right. Nationalism is Nazism, and exhibit A is Zionism.’”
Chain reaction: Carr acknowledged that “when you have rising nationalism, the rising tide also lifts the extreme. So with rising nationalism, with which nothing is necessarily wrong, you also see a rise in far-right ethnic supremacism, [and] — as a counter-reaction to that — you also see a rise [in antisemitism] on the radical left.”
In an interview with Haaretz, Carr pushed back against the criticism of Trump’s EO: “Every time you try to label something antisemitic, the people who traffic in antisemitism yell about free speech and censorship. Who said anything about censorship? Surely it can’t be that the only people who have free speech are the antisemites. You also need free speech to call it antisemitism.”
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor in the Obama administration, suggested on the latest “Pod Save the World” podcast that charges of antisemitism on the left are being weaponized by Republicans to single out critics of Israeli policy and peel off votes in the 2020 election:
“If you look at the problem of antisemitism in the U.S. today, it is not something that is by and large tied to criticisms of Israeli government policy. The thing that seems to have motivated people to conduct acts of violence is more the kind of corrosive and traditional antisemitism that just hates Jews… So when we are living through a period which is very dangerous in terms of the reaffirmation of the terms of antisemitism in this country, we are having the wrong debate and discussion, because the vitriol and strain that is leading to violence or threats of violence is overwhelmingly from the white nationalist set of ideology in this country, that Bernie [Sanders] has nothing to do with. And instead, these types of things to try to make it all about if you are a critic of Israel or a critic of the Israeli government, then you are in this pool of antisemites… it doesn’t mean that some criticism of Israel isn’t antisemitic. Some of it is. But a lot of it is just people who have concerns about Palestinian rights or about where Israel is going, and we have to be able to separate these things.”
Rhodes also indicated he would have voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party:
“I don’t think every single person who voted Labour in the U.K. election is an antisemite. Frankly, if I lived in the United Kingdom, I probably would have voted Labour. And that has nothing to do with Israel or Israeli policy.”
Listen to the full podcast here.
BEHIND THE SCENES — Internal Hadassah battle over Jerusalem hospital head
The leadership of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is appealing to the Israeli government to help oust Professor Ze’ev Rotstein as head of the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, according to a recent Haaretz report.
War of words: The U.S. branch wants the contentious hospital director-general out over charges that he badmouths the reputation of Hadassah staff and volunteers. A senior Hadassah-WZOA staffer told Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen that the organization has an agreement with Rotstein that spells out that he isn’t allowed to do anything “to damage the good reputation of Hadassah Medical Organization and Hadassah-WZOA,” and that the deal was the reason the organization consented to his reappointment.
Big donor: While most of the Hadassah Medical Organization’s $765 million annual budget is funded by patient fees, Hadassah-WZOA is one of the three funders that rescued the medical center from bankruptcy just a few years ago. It agreed to provide $19 million a year for operating funds, and a senior Hadassah-WZOA source told JI, “We must have provided far more than $1 billion” in funding to the Jerusalem hospitals.
More missteps: Last month, two board members and a senior executive of the William Davidson Foundation were led by Dr. Ron Carmeli, chief of vascular surgery, on a tour of the recently opened 13th floor of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, which the foundation funded. No one told the group that, hours earlier, Carmeli had been released on bail after being arrested by police in connection with a sexual harassment investigation. When they later learned of his arrest, foundation leaders were rather uncomfortable.
💵 Work Around: In Recode, Theodore Schleifer details how Google co-founder Larry Page skirted charity rules when making massive donations each holiday season. According to Schleifer, Page’s foundation gave $400 million over the last three holiday seasons to donor-advised funds, not charities. [Recode]
🏫 Pride and Prejudice: Writing in Tablet magazine, Sean Cooper details the extensive and institutionalized charges of antisemitism that have rocked the elite Fieldston School in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx. The school, which was founded by the son of a rabbi for Jews unwelcome in other institutions, now “has a problem… calling out hate against [the Jewish] community.” [Tablet]
AROUND THE WEB
🚔 Manhunt Over: The man suspected of vandalizing the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills on Saturday was arrested yesterday in Hawaii, where he fled immediately after ransacking the sanctuary.
✡️ Hate Continues:Three Jewish schools in Los Angeles were spray-painted with antisemitic graffiti this week.
🏫 Talk of the City: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio allegedly engaged in “political horse-trading” to delay an investigation into education standards at the city’s Orthodox Jewish yeshivas, the city’s Department of Investigation and the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools said in a report released Wednesday.
🍎 Going Hungry: Trump’s new cuts on food stamps will “exact a painful financial and emotional toll on New York’s Jewish community,” the Met Council for Jewish Poverty told the Jewish Week.
🔊 Stepping Up:Defense Minister Naftali Bennett is working to increase Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.
🤝 Locking Arms: Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat met with U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien at the White House on Wednesday. The two “agreed to continue close coordination on countering Iran’s destabilizing influence and activities in the region, as well as monitoring the ramifications of unrest within Iran,” a joint statement said.
🛰️ Into Orbit: Israel’s Elbit Systems launched a nanosatellite, called Nanova, into space yesterday for commercial communications.
🤖 Hire a Bot: The world’s first “robot job agency” — a joint venture between SixAI of Israel and Musashi Seimitsu of Japan — opened its doors in Israel yesterday, allowing companies to rent robots by the hour.
🇲🇪 New Partner: Israel has inked its first ever defense deal with Montenegro, to provide $35 million of remote control weapons stations.
🤴 Royal Visit: Prince Charles will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next month to attend the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem. This will mark the second official visit to Israel by a member of the royal family since Israel’s founding.
🚫 Mass Detention: Russia detained a group of 40 Israelis upon their arrival at Moscow Airport yesterday, eventually allowing all but one to enter the country. Israeli officials believe it was designed to send a message to its government amid tensions.
🌊 Water Battle: Archeologists have discovered the oldest known man-made seawall off the coast of Haifa which — 7,000 years ago — failed to save the settlement of Tel Hreiz from rising sea levels.
🗳️ 2020 Watch: An anti-Israel activist and BDS supporter is running for a spot on the city council of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
🏀 Sports Blink: David Blatt, the former Cleveland Cavaliers and Maccabi Tel Aviv coach, is retiring from coaching and joining the New York Knicks as a consultant.
🕯️ Remembering: Geula Cohen, an underground Etzel fighter turned Likud Knesset member — and mother of current Likud MK Tzahi Hanegbi — has died at age 93.
Israeli novelist, essayist and playwright, winner of virtually every Hebrew book award, A. B. Yehoshua turns 83…
Retired president of Yeshiva University (1976-2003), then YU’s chancellor (2003-2013), Rabbi Norman Lamm turns 92… Co-chair of the Democratic Majority for Israel, she was the communications director in the Clinton administration (1999-2001) and then a senior aide to Hillary Clinton, Ann Frank Lewis turns 82… Journalist and playwright, he worked as a foreign correspondent for TheNew York Times based in Saigon, London, Nairobi and New Delhi, Bernard Weinraub turns 82… NYC-based real estate developer, Douglas Durst turns 75… Ardsley, New York resident, Ruth Wolff turns 73…
Israeli scientist, high-tech entrepreneur and leading businesswoman, Orna Berry turns 70… Town justice in Ulster, New York, Marsha Weiss turns 66… Host of the “RealTalk MS” podcast, he was previously the publisher of California’s Long BeachJewish Life, Jon Strum turns 65… SVP at the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, Eli Schaap turns 65… CFO at wine importer and distributor, New York Wine Warehouse, Jane Troy turns 65… British cellist, distinguished for his diverse repertoire and distinctive sound, Steven Isserlis turns 61… Former member of the Knesset for the Meretz party (2000-2003 and again 2017-2019), Moshe “Mossi” Raz turns 54… Founder, president and chief creative officer of Rachel G Events LLC, Rachel L. Glazer turns 47…
VP and head of federal government relations at American Express, Amy Best Weiss turns 42… Acclaimed actor, he reports that on his 13th birthday he performed a “bar-mitzvah-like act without the typical trappings,” Jake Gyllenhaal turns 39… Washington correspondent and senior political reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Tal Kopan turns 33… Founder and CEO of NYC-based executive advisory firm, The Callie Company, Callie Schweitzer turns 31… Partner in Tel Aviv-based venture capital firm Aleph, Aaron Rosenson turns 30… Legislative assistant and policy advisor to Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Haim Engelman turns 27… Senior reporter at Recode, Theodore Schleifer turns 27 (h/ts Playbook)… David Ginsberg...